Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Bodhicaryavatara - Enthusiasm

by Sangharakshita

... attraction to unwholesome action. And 'the [4]
laziness of discouragement' is the laziness which consists in telling oneself 'You can't make
the effort, you're too weak', and so on. So I think that the distinction between the first and the
second types of laziness, that is to say the laziness of indolence and the laziness of attraction
to unwholesome action, are somewhat different. I think the distinction is not an artificial one.
Is that clear? Does everyone find that convincing? (Murmurs of assent). And then, going back
to (a)
Sanghadevi: My only query on that is that in the verses in which the commentary refers to the
first laziness, Shantideva is saying quite a lot about reaping your karma and reaping the
consequences of evil actions. It seems to be an incentive to shake you out of that sort of
laziness, but at the same time he seems to be dwelling quite a lot on the consequences of your
unskilful actions, which was why I wasn't sure about it.
S: I think sometimes it is difficult to apportion the verses neatly between the different
subdivisions. They shade into one another, as it were. I think the distinction between the
laziness of indolence and the laziness of attraction to unwholesome action, in itself, is clear
enough; but whether you can allocate certain verses exclusively to this type of laziness and
certain other verses exclusively to another type of laziness I think is another question. I think
it's a question of the subdivision of the text, whether it really can be neatly subdivided in that
way; even though it can to some extent, or even to a great extent. The text is in a way very
poetical, so Shantideva isn't necessarily following a very logical scheme which can be divided
and subdivided in the way that the commentator is trying to do. 'Do you think there is
suggestion here by Shantideva that the laziness of indolence and the laziness of
discouragement are stronger within us than the laziness of attraction to the unwholesome?'
You could say that attraction to the unwholesome is a broader category, but I suppose it
would differ very much from one individual to another. One might be more prone to the
laziness of indolence, another more prone to the laziness of discouragement, another more
prone to the laziness of attraction to the unwholesome. I find it difficult to generalize in that
Sanghadevi: That question was based on that apportioning of certain ... effects to particular ...
S: Right, yes. I think it doesn't necessarily follow from that especially as perhaps the verses
can't be apportioned in a very exclusive way. One finds that in the work as a whole
Shantideva has much more to say about patience than he does even about virya, so does that
suggest that he thinks that anger, say, to which patience is the antidote, is twice as strong in us
as laziness, the antidote to which is virya, because he devotes twice as many verses,
practically, to kshanti? Can you really reason like that? Perhaps you can, but not necessarily
so. W[ere] indolence and despondency Shantideva's particular hindrances?' Well, as I have
said, if one counts the number of verses, anger must have been his particular hindrance,
because he has devoted the longest chapter to kshanti, which is the antidote to hatred. I
suppose, in the case of Shantideva as in the case of probably everybody else, all the
hindrances are pretty strong! It is difficult to say which of them is the strongest.
Then, another question: Do we have any facts about Shantideva's career at Nalanda?
We don't really have very much information. I have read bits and pieces of information here
and there; I am afraid I can't recollect them, but they have been collected somewhere. We
don't have a proper biography of Shantideva, certainly. There are various myths and legends.
It would be interesting, perhaps, to know more about him, but ancient Indians didn't go in for
biography or autobiography or anything like that. They didn't even write their memoirs! The
Tibetans developed this much more. It seems there were some Indian Buddhist biographers.
There seem to have been biographies of, for instance, such personages as Naropa and perhaps
Tilopa, and the Tibetan biographies were modelled on those; but the Tibetans seem to have
developed the art of biography to a much greater extent than the Indians ever did. The
Chinese also were fond of biographies, but that was because they were Chinese rather than
because they were Buddhists. According to the Matics translation, laziness grows primarily
because of a lack of concern with the sorrow of rebirth, whereas in Batchelor's translation this
is only one of the factors. I think this is just a question, as I indicated, of the construction of
the Sanskrit and the fact that it isn't reproduced very closely in the Tibetan translation. Matics
says: Because one is unconcerned with the sorrow of rebirth, Sloth arises through inertia,
relish for pleasure, torpor, and eagerness to be protected. Whereas Batchelor says: Because of
attachment to the pleasurable taste of idleness, Because of craving for sleep, And because of
having no disillusion with the misery of cyclic existence, Laziness grows very strong. So
Batchelor puts all of those three factors on the same level, as it were; but Matics definitely
makes unconcern with the sorrow of rebirth the primary factor, and speaks of it as arising in
different ways. In fact, you could say, according to Matics and presumably according to the
original, there is only one factor, only one real cause of laziness, but it can arise in different
ways. 'Because one is unconcerned with the sorrow of rebirth, Sloth arises through inertia',
etc. etc. It is unconcern with the sorrow of rebirth which is the main thing. I think we can
regard Matics as reproducing the meaning of the original more closely. That does seem
logical, doesn't it? Because what prevents you making an effort, what makes you lazy, is your
lack of realization of the sorrow of rebirth, the sorrow of conditioned existence itself, and this
can arise either through inertia or relish for pleasure or torpor or an eagerness to be protected.
It is as though there were some clauses not translated by the Tibetan version. The fact that the
Bodhicaryavatara is in verses provides us with a sort of check, as it were; because supposing
you have a verse, as here, in the Sanskrit, part of which is not found in the Tibetan, at the
same time the Sanskrit version is complete metrically, so you can be quite sure that
something must have been left out of the Tibetan rather than added on to the Sanskrit. It
would be very good if we had a bilingual edition of the Bodhicaryavatara, with the Sanskrit
preferably in Roman characters on one side of the page and a literal English translation on the
Sanghadevi: Have you got any texts with the Sanskrit in them?
S: I don't; I have been trying to [get one]. I did have one at another time; I lent it to someone
and never got it back, but that was in Devanagiri characters with a Hindi translation. There is
no edition of the Sanskrit text in print, to my knowledge, unless there is one produced in
India. Have you any comments on this? Not beyond that. Referring to v. 15, in what sense can
one 'reject the supreme joy of the sacred Dharma' if you have not been practising long enough
to experience it as supremely joyful? Is the text referring more to the tendency to close one's
eyes to the truth? You do perhaps have a glimpse or vision which gives you an inkling of the
possibilities the Dharma offers you, but you don't pursue that vision wholeheartedly because
it is not strong enough and you are not very integrated. Well, that is about it, I think, but let us
look at that verse. First of all, Matics: Having cast away the delight of the Dharma, the most
noble cause of endless delight, How is there delight for you in arrogance, derision and such
causes sorrow? Or Batchelor: Having rejected the supreme joy of the sacred Dharma This is a
boundless source of delight, Why am I distracted by the causes for pain? Why do I enjoy
frivolous amusements and the like? That doesn't sound very good, does it especially those
first two lines: 'Having rejected the supreme joy of the sacred Dharma This is a boundless
source of delight'?
: Might be a misprint. Should be 'which' 'which is a '
S: Anyway, the Matics translation is clear, isn't it? 'Having cast away the delight of the
Dharma'. Well, if you had really experienced it as delight, presumably you wouldn't have cast
it away. But there is, of course, the question of degree: there are degrees of delight. And you
can thoroughly enjoy, say, your Dharma study without necessarily wanting to continue it very
much! We find this happening all the time, don't we, even when we go away on retreat and
enjoy meditation, enjoy Dharma study; but you go back to wherever you came from, and you
can forget how enjoyable it can be to be on retreat; so you don't make a very great effort to go
on retreat again, not perhaps for a long time; not until someone reminds you or takes you by
the hand and drags you along. If, of course, your enjoyment of the Dharma is very, very great
indeed, especially if it is conjoined with Insight, you are unlikely to forget that. But I think we
can have quite a considerable experience of the joy of the Dharma, and none the less forget it.
That does seem to happen quite often.
Sanghadevi: Might that link up with when you spoke ...

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